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Opposition to Drilling in State Waters Strengthens as Leasing for Rig Sites Nears

By Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Feb 2012 06:45pm | comments
Jeffrey Bounds, a Boston consultant and Gulf Coast native, left, presents an economic and engineering study to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. Louis Skrmetta, of Ship Island Excursions, right, represents the 12 Miles South Coalition, which commissioned the study.

The Mississippi Development Authority is finalizing regulations for seismic testing and drilling one mile off the barrier islands. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports those opposed to gas and oil rigs in Mississippi waters are stepping up their efforts.

The 12 Miles South Coalition asked the Harrison County Board of Supervisors Monday to join the effort to protect the tourism industry.  Boston consultant, and Gulf Coast native, Jeffrey Bounds presented his study done for the coalition. Bounds says tourism is a known money-maker for the state, while revenues from drilling are uncertain.

"If drilling impacts tourism by even as small as three percent, that’s one out of 30 people who visit the coast say, it really doesn’t appeal to me ever since that BP thing, and now there’s these rigs that are  visible from the coast, I'll go somewhere else, I'll go to Florida. If only one out of 30 people do that, the state doesn’t make a penny in revenue out of the gas. It basically becomes a wash."

Harrison County Board of Supervisors President Kim Savant says the tourism industry is the county’s largest employer, so the board may consider trying to slow down the process until it has more information.

"We could take a position on it by resolution and we could ask that the Legislature rethink its position. I think that was decided in 2004. We can take a postion on it and I think the board probably will."

Supervisors decided to hold a workshop in the near future to get more details on drilling.

Some who make their living on the water think drilling is a good idea. At recent meeting in Ocean Springs, shrimper Frank Parker said he has all the information he needs.

"I think we need drilling over here. They say you've got environmental factors, and all this.  If you look at our neighboring state, Louisiana, it’s probably the biggest marine gas producer in the United States. Right there in the middle of these oil fields and gas fields is some of the most pristine seafood that this country eats, comes from those same fields. We shrimp around them every day."

Those who favor drilling say the state needs the jobs and the revenue, especially for education. 

The state Legislature approved drilling one mile south of the barrier islands in 2004. The Mississippi Development Authority  is currently finalizing regulations and could soon begin offering permits for seismic testing and leases for drilling. 

Images

Jeffrey Bounds, a Boston consultant and Gulf Coast native, left, presents an economic and engineering study to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. Louis Skrmetta, of Ship Island Excursions, right, represents the 12 Miles South Coalition, which commissioned the study.


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